Edwards leads UConn in NCAA first-round rout
Mar. 18—STORRS — The UConn women's basketball team knows something about long winning streaks. The Huskies hold four of five longest in NCAA history including their record 111-game streak.
Entering Saturday's NCAA tournament Seattle 3 regional first-round game against Vermont, second-seeded UConn was hoping to extend a streak even longer than any it's had. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1994, No. 2 seeds were 115-0 against No. 15 seeds.
The Fairleigh Dickinson men didn't come running through the Gampel Pavilion doors.
Aaliyah Edwards scored a career-high 28 points as the Huskies routed No. 15 Vermont 95-52 to advance to the second round for the 29th consecutive tournament. UConn (30-5) will face No. 7 Baylor Monday at Gampel Pavilion for a spot in the Sweet 16 in Seattle. The Bears came from 18 points back to stun 10th-seeded Alabama 78-74.
"We're aware that it is possible that it could happen," UConn point guard Nika Muhl said. "We understand that. One of the reasons that I don't think it will ever happen to us, and we certainly don't want it to happen, is because we don't take our opponents lightly. The big emphasis to us was, 'They're good. They're in the NCAA tournament.' It doesn't matter that they were a 15-seed. That's just a number. Upsets are possible. So it's important we play against them like we'd play against the No. 1 team in the country. We did that today."
Dorka Juhasz added 15 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists for the Huskies. Caroline Ducharme had 12 points off the bench. Muhl contributed 10 assists, her school single-season and career record 11th double-figure assist game of the season.
The win also gave the Huskies their 26th 30-win campaign in 30 seasons. UConn set an NCAA record with 14 consecutive 30-win seasons (2006-19). That was snapped when the 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the Huskies sitting at 29 wins. They won 28 games a year later even though they had five games canceled due to a shortened regular season and five canceled games due to the pandemic. They finished 30-6 a season ago.
"I would describe that as hard to describe," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't have the words for it even though we did it. I was here. I saw all of it. I still don't know how I would describe it.
"Obviously the consistency is what's amazing to me, how the players change every four years. Our league has changed. It's just a testament to the people that we bring here from a coaching staff, a support staff, and the players."
The Huskies never trailed as Edwards opened the game with two baskets and Lou Lopez Senechal followed with a 3-pointer for a 7-0 lead. At 18-10, Muhl scored five straight points that started an 18-2 run for a 36-12 lead midway through the second quarter.
"We've seen a lot of upsets in the women's and men's tournaments," Juhasz said. "We never take anyone lightly and we considered Vermont to be a really, really good team. We wanted to come out to put pressure on them to make plays. They run their plays well and have great shooters and we wanted to make them uncomfortable. We were able to be more aggressive than we've been for much of the season when we didn't have 10 healthy players. That has to be our identity going forward."
The Huskies closed the first half with a 15-2 burst for a 53-20 bulge at the break.
Vermont (25-7) entered the contest allowing 53.0 points per game and gave up only 36 in its America East tournament final win over Albany.
UConn isn't Albany.
"Obviously, it didn't end the way we want but that's a really talented UConn team," Vermont coach Alisa Kresge said.
All 10 Huskies that played scored. Aubrey Griffin was limited to six minutes as her surgically-repaired back acted up. She suffered back spasms during the Big East tournament final against Villanova on March 6. Lou Lopez Senechal tweaked her right knee during the third quarter and was kept out as a precautionary measure. She had an ice pack on the knee after the game.
The Catamounts, making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010, had their 17-game winning streak snapped.
Catherine Gilwee had 14 points for Vermont, which is 0-12 against UConn all time. Emma Utterback and Maria Myklebust added 13 points apiece.
For coverage of all sports in the JI's 18-town coverage area, plus updates on the UConn women's basketball team and head coach Geno Auriemma, follow Carl Adamec on Twitter: @CarlAdamec, Facebook: Carl Adamec, and Instagram: @CarlAdamec.